Monday, March 28, 2011

Speed up your foreign language learning with Google's new add-on Ming-a-Ling

Want to speed up your acquisition of vocabulary in the foreign language you’re learning. Try the new browser add-on “Ming-a-Ling” from Google, which substitutes foreign words or phrases in the text of English language articles you read while you surf the Web.

Tell Ming-a-Ling which words and phrases you want to add to your list, and they will start showing up in their native glory on your English-language Web pages. Submit to Ming-a-Ling, for example, the German word “Wasser” (water). You may then find yourself reading an article in Yahoo News in a sentence which suddenly reads: “The boat gradually sank into the Wasser.”

If you forget a word or phrase, you can drag your cursor over it, and a small pop up box will remind you of the English definition. What if you get tired of this weirdness after your learning time? Just turn off the software.

This groundbreaking program, in fact, might become revolutionary if the developers were to add a feature that allowed the user to input all at once the most common 1,000 words in a foreign language. Then the next 500 most common. I could envision the English gradually melting away from your screen over the course of a few months as your vocabulary climbed.

You will have to exercise a little caution. Ming-a-Ling relies on software that is not infallible. It’s still weak on distinguishing between identically spelled words like “bark” (tree bark) and “bark” (the howl of a dog), so you may get some mistranslations. However, the software is expected to get smarter over time.

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